Never trust the dispatcher

This is a discussion on Never trust the dispatcher within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; We got dispatched to a structure fire late Sunday night, arrived first on scene. Scene is weird, there is a burn barrel in the back ...

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Thread: Never trust the dispatcher

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    VIP Member Array paramedic70002's Avatar
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    Never trust the dispatcher

    We got dispatched to a structure fire late Sunday night, arrived first on scene. Scene is weird, there is a burn barrel in the back just blazing away, a few spots in the front yard on fire, Deputy is on scene, single wide trailer doesn't appear to be on fire, people milling about by front door, somewhat upset.

    As I get close to the Deputy's car, I see he is arresting a subject. Hmmm... WTH have I walked in to?

    Turns out this guy had set some clothes on fire, carried them to the front door, ripped open the skirting, and tossed them under the insulation. His sister had pulled the burning material out before it got caught good.

    The dispatcher never mentioned anything to us about there being an arsonist on scene, only that there was a structure fire. And this isn't nearly the first time that one of our dispatchers has failed to provide information. Like the time we went out on a car crash, they failed to mention that it was an overturned vehicle.............half full school bus!

    The moral of the story? Always be prepared.
    Last edited by JD; February 11th, 2009 at 11:38 AM. Reason: Corrected language workaround.
    "Each worker carried his sword strapped to his side." Nehemiah 4:18

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    Yeah... ours do the same things. Sometimes they forget its their job to pass on information, nothing more, nothing less.
    "Just blame Sixto"

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    mkh
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    Somebody needs to train their dispatchers better.

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    VIP Member Array Dal1Celt's Avatar
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    Dispatchers are human... and not perfect, could have been the only info they had at time.... and then again....
    "Without fear there can be no Courage!"

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    Distinguished Member Array C9H13NO3's Avatar
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    Maybe the person that called it in didn't say there was an arsonist? Of course, hard to believe someone calling in the overturned school bus wouldn't have said so.
    -Ryan

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    VIP Member Array rottkeeper's Avatar
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    We were dispatched to a lawn mower fire once, the mower was in a garage that was attached to the house and all were burning when we pulled up. The home owner said they told 911 the mower was in the garage etc. Someone decided to shorten the announcement when they dispatched us.
    For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the son of man be. Mathew 24:27

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    Having supervised my equivalent of a dispatcher, I'll share a story...
    Had a boat call in saying they were having trouble. On futher inquiry we determined that "they couldn't go anywhere, due to engine trouble." Okay... We told them all to put on life jackets when they informed us they didn't have enough for everyone. We told them to put the ones they had on the children, and we would send more in the boat on its way to help out. (Given their location, we had access to a camera that showed them, so we were able to keep an eye on scene.)
    Anyway, the assist boat arrives on scene and stops about 30' short of the distressed boat. We're wondering WTH, until we get the call from the assist boat saying they can't get any closer. As we're about to ask why, one of the guys on the distressed boat jumps overboard then WALKS over to the other boat. Grabs the extra life jackets, and WALKS back. Turns out their engine was fine, they neglected to mention they were stuck on the bottom in 2 feet of water....... Guy walked back to the front of the boat, gave a shove, and off they went....

    We would have told our boat if we knew!!
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    Structure Fire

    Quote Originally Posted by rottkeeper View Post
    We were dispatched to a lawn mower fire once, the mower was in a garage that was attached to the house and all were burning when we pulled up. The home owner said they told 911 the mower was in the garage etc. Someone decided to shorten the announcement when they dispatched us.
    A lawnmower fire in a garage attached to the house hmmm, when I was dispatching I would have shortened that as well to make it easier to dispatch. Of course I would have shortened it to Structure Fire at....... but then that is me.
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    VIP Member Array mcp1810's Avatar
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    Gee Rottkeeper it was just a lawn mower when they called it in. If you guys hadn't taken so long getting there.....

    Seriously now, I have been on both sides of the radio. Unless you have actually heard the tapes you should be careful about casting stones here. How certain are you of the genesis of your call? Was it a 9-1-1 about an arson or was the deputy sent out there first for a domestic and then he called for you when the guy tried to torch the place? If the deputy was the source of your call, what did he tell his dispatcher? What did his dispatcher tell yours?
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    VIP Member Array rottkeeper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcp1810 View Post
    Gee Rottkeeper it was just a lawn mower when they called it in. If you guys hadn't taken so long getting there.....

    Seriously now, I have been on both sides of the radio. Unless you have actually heard the tapes you should be careful about casting stones here. How certain are you of the genesis of your call? Was it a 9-1-1 about an arson or was the deputy sent out there first for a domestic and then he called for you when the guy tried to torch the place? If the deputy was the source of your call, what did he tell his dispatcher? What did his dispatcher tell yours?
    I was kinda waiting for that, yeh it would sound like that but we had a less than one minute response time but about an eight minute drive. Given the right conditions a fire can double in size every few seconds, apparently those conditions were met.

    The tapes were pulled and reviewed and the caller gave the proper info and the dispatcher choose to omit the wrong words to shorten the announcement. Human error.
    For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the son of man be. Mathew 24:27

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    VIP Member Array mcp1810's Avatar
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    There are plenty of incompetent dispatchers out there, just as there are incompetent cops, and firefighters, and accountants and name any job you can think of. But having done the job for fifteen years I sometimes think dispatchers are easy and sometimes undeserving targets.
    Yeah... ours do the same things. Sometimes they forget its their job to pass on information, nothing more, nothing less.
    Sixto I am surpised at you. I thought you knew better than that.
    If you truly believe that statement you need to spend some more time in the comm center and really pay attention to what is going on in there.

    Do you guys honestly believe that when people call 9-1-1 or the ten digit number they are going to be calm cool and rational and honest with the call takers? How many callers do you believe clearly state the nature of their emergency, their name, their location, their call back number in case they get disconnected, and also give a clear coherent description of the bad guys etc etc.
    How many of you know how many calls are received in your comm center in a day compared to how many actually get dispatched? You think you are busy now?
    Imagine your world with two to five times your current call volume and all you get on your MDC is an address and "lady says to send police." or "man says they need an ambulance". If all they do is pass on information that is what you will get.
    If you want to know what you are walking in to, that might require some investigation. Or, you can just figure it all out when you get on the scene. You'll find out about the alco/cds/weaps soon enough after you walk in the door, right?
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    VIP Member Array paramedic70002's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcp1810 View Post
    Seriously now, I have been on both sides of the radio. Unless you have actually heard the tapes you should be careful about casting stones here. How certain are you of the genesis of your call? Was it a 9-1-1 about an arson or was the deputy sent out there first for a domestic and then he called for you when the guy tried to torch the place? If the deputy was the source of your call, what did he tell his dispatcher? What did his dispatcher tell yours?
    Preface: I have dispatched police fire and EMS before.

    I first learned of the structure fire when I called dispatch for times on a previous run. She said to call back later because she was "trying to figure out where this fire is."

    About five minutes later the tones go out. It took us three minutes to get on scene. Half way there, dispatch is telling us that the fire is out per the Deputy on scene. The incident was winding down when we arrived.

    According to everything I heard during the incident, from the Deputy, the dispatcher and the victims, they were all aware of what was going on, just not in those exact words.

    The perp (who coincidentally I transported 2 days earlier for chest pain) had threatened to burn down the house being rented by his sister, then proceeded to do it. 911 call was apparently made from a cell phone, so no E911 address, had to be coaxed out of distraught caller.

    In our system, there is a primary and (usually) a secondary dispatcher for all 911, thus same dispatcher handles all info. One talks on radio, one answers phone. They sit 3 feet apart. Occasionally a jailer will fill in when needed. Heck sometimes we hear them talking to the Deputies on our frequency.

    And the overturned school bus... dispatcher told my partner that she didn't announce it as an overturned school bus because she "didn't want everybody getting all excited."

    This is a small town, primarily rural operation. To my knowledge, the dispatchers are minimally trained, that is, they are certified to law enforcement standards and to operate the crime databases. No emergency medical dispatch training. And they are poorly paid, ergo "you get what you pay for." They try but it is frustrating to get dispatched to, "Man thinks he's having a heart attack" or, "Woman needs to go to the hospital."

    I could go on, and believe me I have plenty of stupid medic stories too.
    "Each worker carried his sword strapped to his side." Nehemiah 4:18

    Guns Save Lives. Paramedics Save Lives. But...
    Paramedics With Guns Scare People!

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    VIP Member Array mcp1810's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paramedic70002 View Post
    This is a small town, primarily rural operation. To my knowledge, the dispatchers are minimally trained, that is, they are certified to law enforcement standards and to operate the crime databases. No emergency medical dispatch training. And they are poorly paid, ergo "you get what you pay for." They try but it is frustrating to get dispatched to, "Man thinks he's having a heart attack" or, "Woman needs to go to the hospital."

    I could go on, and believe me I have plenty of stupid medic stories too.
    This is a major part of a problem nation wide. A few years ago APCO did a study on the various problems with the nations comm centers. I cant remember the title of it, but it is an interesting read.

    I was at a training session in Leesburg Va. several years ago and the instructor related an interesting conversation he had with a police chief the week before. The chief was complaining how hard it was for his department to hire and retain good dispatchers. He couldn't understand why. He was starting his dispatchers at $7.50 an hour. Well, it turns out that on his way in, the instructor had hit the McDonalds drive through for breakfast. McDonalds was hiring, and they were offering $8.00 an hour for openers!

    Your agency needs to take a hard look at their financial situation and decide if it is better to contact APCO or PSTC and pay a couple of hundred dollars per dispatcher now ( or if they host the training and enough neighboring agencies sign up you can get a couple of free slots) or wait until they have a multi million dollar judgement against them. You can bet that if your dispatchers are not EMD certified and giving pre arrival instructions it is just a matter of time before the family of choking victim or someone who bleeds out from a laceration finds a lawyer and a retired medical examiner who is going to testify that if your call takers had given proper pre arrival instructions poor dead whats their name would be alive and volunteering for meals on wheels and the Red Cross today.
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    VIP Member Array paramedic70002's Avatar
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    You're preaching to the choir. The dispatchers are employed by the Sheriff. I am a private contractor assigned to a volunteer rescue squad. The only SOP I have is unwritten: Don't rock the boat or you'll be back humping dialysis patients all day.
    "Each worker carried his sword strapped to his side." Nehemiah 4:18

    Guns Save Lives. Paramedics Save Lives. But...
    Paramedics With Guns Scare People!

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    VIP Member Array HKinNY's Avatar
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    Would a ride along between the dispatchers and the LEO help any? This way the Dis gets to see what the LEO sees and they may be able to call it better?

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